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A Howling Good Mystery at STC

sherlock holmes

The Sacramento Theatre Company (STC) has a good track record with Sherlock Holmes and his assistant Dr. John Watson, having put on a production of “Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure” in 2011. And now William Elsman and Michael RJ Campbell, who played Holmes and Watson respectively, have returned to their roles in a cracking good production of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s best-known Holmes mysteries, “The Hound of the Bakersvilles”.

Michael Laun directs this 2013 adaptation by Seattle-area actors and adapters R. Hamilton Wright and David Pichette. Laun balances the humor and mystery of the tale, all the while keeping the plot briskly moving along.

Elsman is regal and refined, elegant in dress as befits the master sleuth. Campbell is a strong foil for Elsman, exercising as much authority as he’s allowed. Dr. Watson’s concern for Holmes’ passion for his “seven percent solution” (cocaine) often is challenged as Holmes gets easily bored when not working on a case. Luckily, in “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” there’s a fine mystery to spark Holmes’ interest.

It’s autumn, 1890, and Sir Henry (“call me Hank”) Baskerville (Dan Fagan) has returned from Canada, where he was born and lived, to Devonshire, England, to assume control of the British manor his family has owned for generations. Sir Henry visits Holmes and Watson — not because he believes in the legend that the family has been cursed and is threatened by a hellish hound — but because some strange happenings have been reported on the moor that surrounds the manor. An ancestor, Hugo Baskerville, reportedly made a deal with the devil and later was killed by what could only have been a horrifying beast. His successor, Sir Charles Baskerville, who believed in the curse, died while apparently running from the beast everyone now calls the Hound of the Baskervilles.

Certain that there is no spectral beast killing Baskervilles, Holmes nevertheless is intrigued by the mystery of the moor. First he sends Dr. Watson to survey the scene and make notes, then he arrives in disguise to do his own sleuthing.  Additional characters are thrown into the mix, most especially  the brother and sister — or are they? — neighbors Beryl and Jack Stapleton (played by the fetching Aviva Pressman and the mysterious and cool Sean Patrick Nill). Oh, and there’s an escaped murderer somewhere on the moor, too.

What Sherlock deduces about the characters and what he discovers in their lives makes for a twisty, turning tale, and its solution is more than satisfying.

“The Hound of the Baskervilles” plays at 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through May 15 at the Sacramento Theatre, 1419 H St. Tickets cost $34-$38 general, reduced prices for seniors and students.

For more information, call (916) 443-6722 or visit sactheatre.org.

Photo by Barry Wisdom


About the author

Jim Carnes

Jim Carnes has masters degrees in English and journalism and is a former National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow in popular culture at Stanford University. He has covered Sacramento arts and entertainment for more than 20 years. He currently writes about and reviews theater, dance, music and events in the Sacramento area.

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